STUTTGART, Germany – A highlight of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix’s 40:Love celebrations was the return of Tracy Austin, winner of the first four editions of the groundbreaking event when it was played at a tennis club in the Stuttgart suburb of Filderstadt.
Today, the tournament – regularly voted by WTA players to be among the best on tour – is staged on a unique indoor clay surface at the state-of-the-art Porsche Arena, which meant that for the former World No.1, the visit was both a trip down memory lane and a journey of discovery.
“It’s been very emotional, coming back here,” Austin said. “It was the first tournament I ever played and won as a professional. It was a moment I shared with my mom, who’s not with us anymore. I loved to play at Filderstadt, which was so intimate and you got to know people year on year. But the Porsche Tennis Arena is absolutely beautiful – just the right size, with so much atmosphere!”
When Austin defeated Betty Stove to win the first of her Stuttgart titles – each of which famously came with the bonus prize of a Porsche – she was just 15 years old, and yet to earn her driver’s license. While the first car – a racy red model – was gifted to her mother Jeanne and is no longer in the family’s garage, Austin soon got up to speed with the latest Porsche offerings.
Hours after landing, the American joined two Australians - Samantha Stosur and former Formula 1 driver Mark Webber - for a spin around Porsche’s test research and test facility at Weissach.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to go that fast and I was a little scared,” Austin admitted.
“But Mark explained, this is just like you rallying back and forth, this is so easy for me – so he gave me a lot of confidence.”
The two-time US Open champion also got her competitive juices flowing behind the wheel, joining current WTA players in the demanding Porsche Parking Challenge, now a popular fixture at the tournament.
On a more formal note, Austin and Germany’s own Angelique Kerber, Stuttgart champion in 2015 and 2016, headlined a spectacular opening night gala. After delivering symbolic serves the players were joined by WTA CEO Steve Simon to present tournament dignitaries with a commemorative framed picture.
“This is a singularly special tournament that will always have a special place in my heart,” Austin said.
Check out the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix’s video celebrating its champions through the years!